Murdering morality with ferocious fire

“Morality is herd instinct in the individual.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

When I look back at my life’s work thus far I often find myself asking the question “was it worth it?”

That question isn’t meant in some kind of crazed suicidal manner, I just mean specifically the projects I’ve worked on and the things I do. Are they just? Should I be doing this?

I truly hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to people who know me, but I consider myself to be a person of strong moral values [1]. I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, but over the years I have turned down several projects I didn’t feel ethically comfortable working on. And it has demonstrably held my career progression back. I mostly fine with that. No, I really am.

The simple fact is that I’m due for a HR review, overdue actually, and these questions have started to come to the fore again. I’ll lay in bed thinking about them, I’ll sit here typing about them, I’ll judge other people to gauge the validity of my position and I’ll bore people who’ll listen with my dilemmas.

One shouldn’t really use the word “dilemma” here, these issues are practically the definition of “First World Problems”. Part of me is disgusted to waste so much time on frankly trivial introspection, but for better or worse it is a huge part of my self-identity.

I feel that – to some extent – I’m living a weak, self-imposed and inconsequential version of Pascal’s Gambit. I know full well that the works I’ve rejected have been seen to completion by others. I’ve not scuppered them, nor have I even attempted to. Not having me work on them has perhaps even made them far more effective at whatever aspect I took exception to. I’m making moral decisions with no weight beyond my own mind, no ripple beyond my own insignificant life puddle and no wake beyond this now excessively long essay.

However, in the face of these realisations I still find myself unable to consider the decisions wrong. I’d still choose to reject them now, and I suspect that will remain true in the future. I like that these decisions are defensible to me, that they must be defensible to me. I love that the thing that keeps me awake at night is not the thought of the possibly nefarious effects of my works, but rather the exceedingly minor issue of not having a glistening and well-spec’d M6 in the garage.

Now, let me sleep.

Footnotes

[1]For those values to be strong doesn’t necessarily mean they have to line up with your definition of “strong moral values” ;)